chapter  36
12 Pages

South African Cities, Gender and Inventions of Tradition in the Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

WithVivian Bickford-Smith

This chapter argues that studying invented or adapted traditions in the city, and the rules, rituals and practices associated with them, is a fruitful way of exploring the relationship between gender and the urban experience. It also argues that for those interested in gender and the urban experience, Eric Hobsbawm's concept of the 'invention of tradition' can be usefully deployed in exploring the rules, rituals and regular practises – in other words, the 'traditions' – associated with the teaching, maintenance and promotion of appropriate gender behaviour. Some of these gender traditions were learnt elsewhere and brought to South African cities by the likes of immigrants from Britain or migrants from rural Africa. In Hobsbawm's view, traditions were invented to convey a sense of continuity and stability during 'constant change and innovation'. Inventions of tradition, which centrally included inventions of gendered tradition, usually took their place alongside or frequently incorporated or adapted, older traditions.